For a quarter, it looked like the San Antonio Spurs might be able to duplicate their success from March 19 on Golden State's home floor. After all, they had beat the Warriors 87-79 last month, and at the end of the first quarter on Thursday, the score was 20-15.
The defensive stalemate wouldn't last. In the second frame, the Warriors scored 32 points to take a 12-point lead into halftime. In the third, they topped it with 35 points. It never completely unraveled for San Antonio, but by the fourth quarter, it was clear the 112-101 win for the Warriors would happen exactly like it did.
In a slightly unexpected move, Gregg Popovich did end up using his full lineup, announcing a plan to rest against Denver Friday on the second night of a back-to-back. With the Warriors still in reach of a record-setting 73-win season, there was no rest for them, either.
The Warriors recently lost two home games to the Celtics and Timberwolves, but Thursday was a definitive reminder that their home "struggles" were actually nothing of the sort. Again, this team still has the NBA's best-ever record in play. The losses were more a byproduct of Golden State's regular season indifference and that their remaining opponents are teeing off against them as if it's their Super Bowl.
For a quarter, it really did look like the Spurs might have figured something out about Golden State. But it wasn't long until the Warriors just started having fun again.
Kawhi Leonard led San Antonio with 23 points while Curry had 27 points. The Warriors and the Spurs face each other once more, on April 10, as San Antonio still has a 41-0 home record in play.
Curry learned his lesson
After losing to the Spurs in March in San Antonio, Curry said he regretted not taking the ball to the hole more than he did. Curry's words weren't empty and Thursday, that's basically all he did, attacking the Spurs defense incessantly off pick-and-rolls, in transition and whenever his man played him too tightly.
The results were demonstrative: Curry shot 3-of-7 from behind the three-point line, but two were heaves beyond half court. His 8-of-12 shooting within the arc and eight assists told the story of how much he flipped the switch, and his shot chart tells the clear story of his altered mindset.
Duncan remains a terrible matchup
Tim Duncan has been and still is the heart and soul of the San Antonio Spurs. As a 39-year-old, though, he is no longer a good option against the Warriors. There's a clear reason why he only played eight minutes in last March's win over Golden State, because his game is predicated around a strict patrol in the paint. Duncan has specific spots where he knows to go for success, and deviating whatsoever from that plan -- like switching onto guards or having to chase Draymond Green when the Warriors break out their death lineup -- isn't something he adapts to like he did years ago. On Thursday, he played 19 minutes with just four points and three rebounds. His minutes were higher because Popovich didn't have the luxury of putting Boris Diaw at center, which leads us to ...
The Spurs missed Boris Diaw
As relieved as we were as basketball fans to see Popovich defer rest against the Warriors, it's worth remembering that San Antonio is not 100 percent. Diaw is a huge part of their team, particularly for playing the Warriors: he's a big man with guard skills and a lot of versatility, exactly the type of player any team facing Golden State needs to have. When the Warriors go to that famous, deadly lineup featuring Draymond Green at center, Diaw is their best chance at matching him. In fact, you could argue that after Leonard and Aldridge, no Spur is as important facing Warriors as Diaw.
Diaw's groin injury hopefully won't force him to miss much time the rest of this season, or certainly not in the playoffs. His absence doesn't make this game's results any less impressive, either. It's just worth remembering if the seemingly inevitable Warriors and Spurs series arrives in May.
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Sharpshooting: Steph Curry knocks water out Draymond Green's hand
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